INDIANAPOLIS – No matter the venue or the day of the week, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to out execute the Indianapolis Colts.
Unlike the two previous Colts/Steelers matchups, when Indy was outscored by 52 points, Chuck Pagano's team on Thursday night had several favorable chances to make things really interesting.
In the end, Pagano and the Colts would look back on five drives that entered Pittsburgh territory but ended with zero points.
"We had opportunities to make a game of this and we didn't take advantage of them," Pagano said after his team's 28-7 loss on Thursday night.
A 28-7 defeat almost always indicates the game was one-sided.
But this one was not, after the Colts settled down from a jittery start.
Pittsburgh scored touchdowns on their first three drives, with the B's (Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) wrecking the Colts defense.
With Scott Tolzien starting for the injured Andrew Luck, an early hole was the last thing the Colts needed on Thursday.
However, Tolzien led promising drive after promising drive with 6-of-the-9 offensive series passing midfield.
The Colts, having missed a late first quarter field goal from 52 yards out, were on the verge of cutting the halftime lead to 21-14.
Facing a 1st-and-Goal from the Pittsburgh 2-yard line with 3:18 left in the opening half, the Colts moved the ball just one yard in four plays.
The empty goal-to-go situations didn't cease there.
Coming out in the third quarter, the Indy defense got a needed early stop.
Tolzien and the offense then embarked on a 19-play drive, eating up an incredible 11:22 off the clock.
In the end, the Colts were denied from the one-yard line.
Two drives, spanning 151 yards over 29 plays and 16:09.
The points to show for it? Zero.
"When you are that close, we've got to put it in," a visibly frustrated Tolzien said after the Colts dropped to 5-6 on the year.
"Personally, I look at those two opportunities. I had two chances with the ball in my hand from inside the two-yard line. I wish I could have punched them in. That's frustrating because that's 14 points in those situations. That's a big swing in the game. That's a game changer. Period."
The Colts came into Thursday leading the league in goal-to-go situations this season, scoring touchdowns at an 88.9 percent clip.
On Thursday, they were 1-for-3.
Photos from the first ever Thanksgiving Day game in Indianapolis.
"You punch those in and you know the scoreboard is going to look a heck of a lot different than it does right now," Pagano said after the third straight loss, in three years, to the Steelers.
"It certainly doesn't guarantee you anything, but you're in the ball game."
While Tolzien performed admirably after being thrust into starting duty, those around the backup quarterback didn't make things any easier.
A struggling run game (Frank Gore had a season-low 28 rushing yards on 15 carries), drops from the top three wideouts and a lack of consistent protection (3 sacks and 11 hits) led to a trying evening for the offense.
Afterwards, T.Y. Hilton accepted blame, pointing directly to a second-quarter touchdown drop that would have cut the lead to 21-14.
"It was my fault," Hilton, who left Thursday's game with a back injury in the third quarter, said.
"I started it with the drop. Shouldn't happen. I should have had it. It changed the game. That was on me."
Hilton said earlier this week the Colts needed their "stars to play like stars" and that didn't happen on Thursday.
The aggressive Colts attempted four fourth downs, while losing a handful starters to injuries during the loss.
That is going to be the storyline as the Colts head into their mini-bye still looking up at the Texans, with time really ticking.
"We are a beat up football team right now," Pagano said, "but we've got some time going forward."